February 23, 2017 / 6:29 PM / 5 months ago

Syrian sides face off under U.N. flag, asked to work together

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Head of opposition delegation for the Geneva IV conference on Syria Nasr al-Hariri (C) arrives at the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland, February 23, 2017.Pierre Albouy

GENEVA (Reuters) - Syrian negotiators came face to face under the U.N. flag in Geneva for the first time in three years on Thursday, as U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura opened a new round of political negotiations in a bid to end the almost six-year conflict.

"I ask you to work to work together. I know it's not going to be easy to end this horrible conflict and lay the foundation for a country at peace with itself, sovereign and unified," he told the delegates, who sat across from each other on a raised platform in a U.N. assembly hall, watched by diplomats.

After his opening address, de Mistura shook hands with representatives from both sides, and they left the hall for further talks. It was not clear if the two sides would meet for direct talks.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, John Irish and Tom Miles

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